Episode 19: Riding the Rocket with Thomas Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW
Great American Novel · 64 minutes ·

Episode 19: Riding the Rocket with Thomas Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW

Season three kicks off with a fiftieth anniversary celebration of Thomas Pynchon's postmodernist whirl-a-gig Gravity's Rainbow. Originally published on February 28, 1973, this encyclopedic inquiry into the systematicity of existence, power, and technology was just this week described by Esquire as "one of the weirdest, richest, most frustrating, inscrutable, brilliant, gorgeous, exhilarating, inexplicable, disgusting, hilarious, remarkable, and goddamn frustrating again novels ever published in America"---a novel so discombobulating, in fact, that the Pulitzer board refused to award it the fiction prize it assuredly deserved for its sheer display of ambition and erudition.  Ostensibly about an American Army lieutenant, Tyrone Slothrop, whose sexual adventures in World War II-blasted London predict German V2 rocket bombings, Gravity's Rainbow encompasses so much more than a plot. With nearly 400 (often wackily named) characters and wild tangents into shadowy conspiracies hatched by secret organizations with names like ACHTUNG and PISCES, the narrative tries to find some natural humanism within the wide battery of political bureaucracies and regulatory bodies that administrate lives and minds. As we decide, Pychon's heart is always with the counterforce, with those who by letting their lives run counter to the machine transcend the inevitable rainbow's arc of precision that's meant to keep us all in our place and the trains running on time. Love it or hate it, Rainbow's Gravity feels like riding a rocket: we can only strap in and feel the G-force.   

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